Erynnis persius

Geographic Range

Erynnis persius, or the Persius duskywing, also known as the hairy duskywing, is found coast to coast in North America. The eastern subspecies, Erynnis persius persius, is found sparsely in the northern states from southeastern Minnesota to Maine and south into the Appalachians in Virginia. Another subspecies, Erynnis persius borealis, has a more western distribution, being found from the western Dakotas and Manitoba west to Alaska and south to New Mexico and California. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Shepherd, 2005)


Erynnis persius is found in open woodlands, mountain grassland, marshes, sand plains, seeps, and alongside streams. Eyrnnis persius persius is found in areas where its larval host plant, the wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis) occurs. This includes sandy areas within oak savannas and pine barrens. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Scott, 1986; Shepherd, 2005)

Physical Description

Erynnis persius is a member of the family Hesperiidae, a type of butterfly called skippers, that is small and very dark. The wings are rounded with a wingspan of 29 to 42 mm, with a brown-black upperside and a lighter underside. The upper forewings have light markings that look grey and mottled near the tip and a row of translucent spots before the mottled grey. They have a robust body and antennae are slender with a hooked club tip. Males have dark hindleg plumes and raised white hairs on the forewing. Males also have yellow scent scales in a costal fold. Females have a more predominate mottle grey color on the tip of the forewing and larger translucent spots near the middle of the forewing, which are diminished or absent on the male. Females have a patch of scent cells on the seventh abdominal segment.

Erynnis persius resembles many other duskywing species and care should be taken with identification in regions of overlapping range. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Scott, 1986; Shepherd, 2005)

Eggs are pale yellow-green or pale yellow and will turn reddish.

Larvae are pale green with tiny white dots, with a dark green middorsal line and yellowish dorsal line. The head is yellowish to dark reddish brown.

Pupae are a dull, olive green, mottled with pale dots. The abdomen is pinkish brown. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Scott, 1986; Shepherd, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range wingspan
    29 to 42 mm
    1.14 to 1.65 in


Like other species of butterflies, Persius duskywings undergo complete metamorphosis. Females will lay a single egg under the host plant leaf. Once the egg hatches, the larvae (commonly known as caterpillars) will eat leaves of the host plant and live in nests of rolled or tied leaves. Full grown larvae will hibernate in shelters made of leaves and pupate in early spring or as late as July, eventually emerging as adults. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Scott, 1986; Shepherd, 2005)


Males perch on hilltops, low vegetation, twigs, or bare spots to wait for receptive females. Once a female passes the male, he will pursue her and both will hover near each other. The male will hover over the female until she eventually lands, and the male will continue to hover over her until he also lands and they then mate. Both males and females have scent cells on them (the male on his wings and the female on her abdomen). These likely produce pheromones and play a role in attracting mates. There is limited knowledge on the dispersal behavior of females after mating. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Scott, 1986)

Persius duskywings produce one brood annually with one flight season from April to June. A single egg is laid on the underside of a leaf on the host plant. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Shepherd, 2005)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding takes place during the spring and early summer.

Females provide provisioning in the eggs, as well as lay the eggs on a host plant. This host plant will provide food for the hatched larvae. Otherwise, Erynnis persius provides no further parental care, never returning to the egg or offspring after ovipositiing. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Shepherd, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


The specific lifespan for Erynnis persius is not known, but like many butterfly species, it likely lives a few days to several weeks after emerging from pupation as an adult. Butterflies are susceptible to harsh weather conditions and can be killed by hail and freezing temperatures. (Macy and Shepard, 1941; Scott, 1986)


Erynnis persius are motile insects and spend much of their time flying. They are diurnal. Males are not territorial. Adults are often seen flying near wild lupine and will fly erratically when startled. (Barton, 2007; NatureServe, 2013)

Communication and Perception

Persius duskywings use pheromones to communicate, particularly during courtship. Males and females have scent cells, on their wings and abdomen, respectively. While there is little information available for this species, it is likely that these skippers use vision, touch, and chemoreception to gather information about their environment. (Scott, 1986)

Food Habits

Adults feed on nectar from a variety of plants and flowers. Historically, E. persius larvae were thought to feed primarily on various species of willow, Salix spp., and poplar, Populus spp. However, current research shows that these are not the host plant persius duskywing are dependent on. The larval form of E. persius persius is dependent on the wild blue lupine, Lupinus perennis, as a host plant. It may also use wild indigo species, Baptisia spp. The western population of E. persius utilizes members of the pea family, Fabaceae, as a larval host plant. (Macy and Shepard, 1941; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013; Opler, et al., 2012; Shepherd, 2005)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar


Predators of butterflies are typically other arthropods including spiders, ant, wasps, and some beetles. Vertebrates such as lizards, frogs, toads, rodents, and birds will also prey upon butterflies. To defend against ground predators, Erynnis persius can simply fly away. Additionally, butterflies in general produce odor. Unpleasant odors can provide protection from predators. (Macy and Shepard, 1941; Scott, 1986)

Ecosystem Roles

Erynnis persius is prey to a variety of vertebrate and arthropod predators. Butterflies play a small role in pollination of some flowers as they gather nectar, but are typically very inefficient. The presence or absence of certain butterflies can be used as an indication of ecosystem health. (Macy and Shepard, 1941; Scott, 1986)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some butterfly species may help in pollination. Any economic importance for E. persius is not reported specifically. However, the decline in population numbers of E. persius persius has encouraged many eastern states to conduct research on the presence and status of this subspecies. (Macy and Shepard, 1941)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Larvae of some butterfly species can be a nuisance to cultivated plants through the defoliation of the leaves of those plants, though there is nothing to suggest that Erynnis persius is one such species. (Macy and Shepard, 1941)

Conservation Status

Erynnis persius borlealis is secure in most of its range, however, E. persius persius is vulnerable to presumed extirpated in most of its range. Persius duskywings are in severe decline across their eastern range and apparently extirpated in Ontario. Erynnis persius persius has Endangered status under state laws in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and Ohio. It is also listed as threatened in Michigan. (NatureServe, 2013; Shepherd, 2005)

One cause for the decline of Persius duskywings is suppression of fire that has allowed for dense woodland and forest to overtake areas of open oak scrub land that they depend on for lupine growth. As areas are shaded through natural succession, lupine growth is limited and consequently E. persius habitat is decreased. Additionally, much of their open savanna habitat has been destroyed or degraded by urban and agricultural development. Fragmentation of its habitat has also played a role in its decline. Pesticide spraying for the control of gypsy moths has also been linked to the decline of E. persius persius in New England. (Shepherd, 2005; Shuey, et al., 1987)


Bridgett Winkels (author), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


uses sight to communicate


Barton, B. 2007. "Special animal abstract for Persius duskywing (Erynnis persius persius). Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Lansing, MI. 2 pp." (On-line). Accessed March 28, 2013 at

Macy, R., H. Shepard. 1941. Butterflies: A handbook of the butterflies of the United States, Complete for the Region North of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and East of Dakotas. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2013. "Erynnis persius (Scudder, 1863) Persius Duskywing" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2013 at

NatureServe, 2013. "NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia" (On-line). Accessed March 26, 2013 at

Opler, P., L. Kelly, N. Thomas. 2012. "Butterflies and Moths of North America" (On-line). Accessed March 25, 2013 at

Scott, J. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Shepherd, M. 2005. "Skippers: Persius duskywing (Erynnis persius persius)" (On-line). The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Accessed March 24, 2013 at

Shuey, J., J. Calhoun, D. Iftner. 1987. Butterflies that are Endangered, Threatened, and of Special Concern in Ohio. Ohio J. Sci., 87 (4):: 98-106.